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The protecting castle proudly watches over the port entrance of the "bride of the Atlantic", Puerto Plata.

The Fortaleza de San Felipe is the only remaining building of the city from the Spanish colonial era. In its long history, the fortress witnessed a variety of often dramatic events and bloody military conflicts.


King Carlos V of Spain ordered the construction of the fortress in 1541, it was realized in a 23-year construction period between 1562 and 1585, to be so heavily attacked in 1600 by English, French and Portuguese corsairs that  the fortress was abandoned and the entire population of the Dominican north coast had to be relocated inland.


After conquering the great Indian empires of the Aztecs and Mayas in today's Mexico and the Incas in Peru, the Spaniards began plundering these defunct civilizations.

The stolen treasures had to be sent across the Caribbean towards Spain. Everywhere the pirate ships lurked on the precious cargo.

For the protection of the Spanish transport ships therefore Spain built defensive forts at the strategically important places, in order to meet the mischieve of the pirates. San Felipe de Puerto Plata (that's the full name of the city) had an important trading port and was the gateway to the fertile backcountry, the Cibao.


Therefore, in 1541 King Carlos V of Spain ordered the construction of the Fortaleza de San Felipe to protect the port of Puerto Plata. Construction began in 1562 and was completed in 1585.

The buccaneers, corsairs, buccaneers and filibusters, other names for the Caribbean pirates, who were tolerated or promoted by England, France, Portugal and Holland to harm Spain's trade, attacked San Felipe so violently from 1600 that the entire population of the Dominican north coast was relocated to the interior. But that was also because the people were busy trading with the pirates, who, in order to make the barrel full for the Spaniards, also brought Protestant ideas and Bibles to the people. In 1605, King Felipe II of Spain ordered the destruction of the city of Puerto Plata in order to prevent English pirates from finding refuge.

The Fortaleza de San Felipe was also once bombarded by the Americans in their undeclared war with France from 1798 to 1800, when they pursued a French ship in the harbor of Puerto Plata.


From 1822 to 1844 all of Hispaniola became Haitian, there was no Dominican Republic anymore. In the ensuing war of liberation, Dominican national hero Juan Pablo Duarte, who sacrificed all his family's assets for the liberation struggle, was sent north by General Santana, who commanded the South Army, to organize resistance to the Haitians. The North Army called Duarte to the presidency, whereupon Santana had him arrested. To avoid a civil war, Duarte surrendered, was incarcerated in the Fortaleza de San Felipe and later expelled from the country.


On October 14, 1863, the city of Puerto Plata went up in flames when the Spaniards tried to re-annex the Dominican Republic.

All buildings from the colonial era were destroyed, Leaving only the Fortaleza de San Felipe. The city of Puerto Plata was rebuilt in 1865 again. This explains the Victorian architectural style with its typical wooden houses that distinguishes Puerto Plata from other cities in the country.




Article published in LA PLAYA, issue 4 on 14 October 2009

The mentioned prices etc. are from that time.

Juan Pablo Duarte detained in San Felipe

Meanwhile, the whole area, called La Puntilla, at the end of Malecón at the entrance to the port of Puerto Plata has been redesigned. There now is a park with a new integrated amphitheater. It is no longer possible to drive to the statue of Gregorio Luoerón to get to the Fortaleza. Visitors have to park in front of the park and then walk to the Amphitheater or the Fortaleza de San Felipe.


Fortaleza de San Felipe, Puerto Plata